Oh that sweet exotic-sounding word that vocal coaches like to use so often. But what does it actually mean? In simple terms, this French word refers to the positioning of articulators such as the lips, the tongue, the jaw, the teeth, and all the visible facial components of the vocal tract (the extrinsic part of the vocal tract). Coaches will insist on the importance of the open mouth positioning because it directly affects things like the compression of the vocal folds, larynx dampening, the formation of vowels, and even pitch and intonation among other things.
For an adequate embouchure, make sure to drop your jaw and open the position of your articulators (following the video). Beginners tend to think they are “biting the sound” and opening their mouth position, but often times they are actually not and instead they’re simply practicing with a closed embouchure. For this, here at TVS we recommend that beginners practice diligently how to open their embouchure at least for the first two to four weeks of training.
To practice forming an open position, simply use a mirror as a tool to check that you’re maintaining the open embouchure when learning the foundation building routine. Pay close attention to your jaw and make sure you’re not collapsing the embouchure at any given time while singing.
This focused practice is a building block that helps develop the muscle memory to form an open embouchure. In turn, the open embouchure helps us have a much easier time in all the other aspects of singing.
Two different types of Embouchure
Now, there’s two useful embouchures that we’ll explain briefly in this article. Although they both remain open when done correctly, the formation of each is slightly different and you’ll find that each one of them facilitates different things while singing. These are the vertical and the horizontal embouchures:
The Vertical Embouchure is great for overdrive vowels, open vowels when singing high, or if you’re seeking a more metallic sound to your voice. As its name suggests, it is an elongated embouchure and it tends to be more intuitive for singing. However, the downside of the elongated form is that singers tend to make excessive use of jaw movement while singing through this embouchure. Excessive jaw movement is inefficient and contributes to vocal stress when singing high notes. For this, we recommend singers to be particularly careful with jaw movement while using this embouchure in order to avoid these problems.
In contrast with the Vertical Embouchure, the Horizontal Embouchure is slightly less intuitive. Thus, this embouchure can be considered more advanced than the previous one. The reason for this added difficulty is that throat shaping is used for vowel formation while using this embouchure to reduce excessive movement of the jaw. As a result, learning how to sing with a Horizontal Embouchure has the benefit of maintaining the jaw more static while singing; resulting in more efficient singing and an easier time with vowel formation.
Practice these two open embouchures with a mirror in order to have easier high notes, less strain and constriction, less jaw hinging, and more efficient singing.